An Interview with singer Habaka Kay Foster Jackson: In embrace of Blues, Jazz and Gospel family

"The Blues is my heritage and so it’s rich with flavors that should be tasted for a lifetime!"

Habaka Kay Foster Jackson: Gospel Voice

The name "Habakkuk" means "Embrace", and this is the accomplishment of none other than "Kay Foster Jackson"... An international recording artist who has extensively been performing throughout Europe while participating in numerous Jazz, Gospel, and Blues festivals. Born in the music capitol Nashville, TN, Habaka Kay Foster Jackson grew up in Connecticut and before she ever sang her first note, music was instilled in her from her bloodline, her mother Mary Ann Jackson was an International Jazz vocalist and her father Melvin Jackson has played sax for the Legendary B.B. King for over a decade.

Habaka was bound to follow suit, her first album IZ The Bomb released under AMP Records prepared her for her next recordings all under independent labels Eternal Life, Constance, Hold On, and My Favorite Things, where she's continued to carry on the family tradition holding her own as a musician.

With the love of music in her blood, touring all over the world before hundred’s in some of the most prestigious Festivals,Theaters' and Cathedrals throughout the globe, Habaka has toured from Budapest, to Barcelona, from Malta to Germany, Switzerland to Slovenia, and in Italy being the first artist invited twice to perform at the Ariston Theater for the International Jubil Music Festival. Opening for Dee-Dee Bridgewater, B.B. King, Bo-Diddley, Scott Henderson, Clark Terry to name a few, and gracing the stage with some of the most renowned singer's in Italy receiving accolades as the Panther of Cremona from the Legendary Italian singer Mina known as the Tigress of Cremona.

Habaka's profound contralto voice strong yet so smooth and crystal clear, reminds you of the likes of Sade, Shirley Horn, Etta James, Albertina Walker, Mahalia Jackson, sometimes Chaka Chan or even the Queen of Soul. With each note sung you feel every vibration from the first note and you wonder why she even has a microphone, or is it built in. Habaka Kay Foster Jackson is asked if she plays any instruments, and her answer is always' the same "Yes Voice".


Interview by Michael Limnios


Habaka, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & from whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

It’s funny because I grew up listening to Jazz most of the time since my mother was a jazz singer, and my father didn’t live with us, but every time I would go to hear my father perform it was incredible because I knew every beat, break, intro to each song and I would always feel so excited just bursting with energy and I remember thinking how I would love to have that kind of energy in my performance’s (dancing that is) you see because I danced long before I ever thought I would become a singer. Now today I look for that very kind of energy when I’m singing. I must say of course my father gives me many tips and I’m learning everyday that the longer you live, the more you have to share and we have so many great examples to study as well, Ma Rainy, KoKo Taylor, B.B.King, Eric Clapton, Bobby Blue Bland, Bessie Smith just to name a few. (Photo by Pamela Pamijac)


What characterize the sound and philosophy of Habaka?

Gospel is what characterizes the sound and philosophy of Habaka.


What advice your parent’s has given to you?

My father being a blues man that has lived most of his life on the road, is happy to see that I have made my own choice to live the life of a musician as well, he said that decision had to come from me., my mother on the other hand in the beginning wanted me to work a “regular job” in her mind being normal however you may want to identify normal, because she said I would have security and a pension. LOL!, but since that time she has changed her views seeing that I have not given up on music and she knows now that music is me. “I got it honest you know” A book has been written about their lives entitled “The Sound Of Applause”


Are there any music memories from your parents, which you’d like to share with us?

My childhood was not the normal childhood as you would call it, you see my beginning years were spent growing up on the carnival, that’s where my mother was a singer and a dancer and we traveled all over the world until it was time for me to start school., and my mom after several years of traveling decided she needed to be home with me and stopped singing inorder to give me a normal home life if you want to call it normal that way. I also remember when my mom started singing again once I was old enough she would have me write out all the words to her songs and that was how I began to fall in love with Jazz outside of the fact that I was singing and dancing before I ever left the womb (Lol). My father has always played with some of the best musicians and so for me to be back stage in the presence of B.B.King, Bobby Bluebland, and, Johnnie Taylor to name a few also gave me that musical outlook on how it should be done on stage and have that steady drive.    (Photo by Caterina DeSanti)


Which memory from IZ Army and "The Burning Bush" makes you smile?

A smile comes across my face when I think about the very first time hearing the IZ Army on radio and seeing the album in the record stores, and now in 2012 that single of the IZ Army album single is worth $189 if you want to buy it online. When I think about The Burning Bush a smile comes across my face remembering the first time we encountered, I was making a phone call from an ad in the newspaper to audition for a group, well as it turned out the number that was printed in the paper was incorrect but they were also looking for a vocalist at that time and were having auditions, and as it turned out I would go on to sing  as lead vocalist with The Burning Bush for 5yrs.


What does the BLUES mean to you & what offer you?

The Blues is my heritage and so it’s rich with flavors that should be tasted for a lifetime!


                                                                                     Photo by Francesco Preti

What do you learn about yourself from music? How has the blues music changed your life?

I have learned that music is my medicine and whatever I’m feeling I can release it on stage! Being that I never thought I would be a Blues singer, I’ve learned to appreciate the passion that goes into singing a Blues song and as they say, you can’t sing the Blues until you’ve lived a little while to really understand what the Blues is all about, a few ups & downs, a few let downs, a few broken hearts, a few losses starting all over, and so on, and so on.....and at the same time to realize that theres always hope!


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician and person?

I’ve been blessed to be able to live the life of an Artist, Vocalist & Teacher doing what I love to do to make a living, and travel world wide, and not to mention all of the wonderful people and musicians I have met along the way, with that I’m truly grateful because so many people get up everyday and go to a job they hate for 30yrs., so by having this opportunity to live my dream, I make sure I give all I’ve got on stage and for that matter off stage, I’ve always felt a smile never hurt nobody so why not give them out on a daily basis...


What are you thinking when you are on stage, how would you describe your contact to people?

Before I even go on stage I always say a prayer that I would do my best and be used to my fullest ability to share the love inside of me that was given through Jesus Christ and their hearts will be overflowing in love. With that being said my contact is personal to each and everyone that hears my voice.


                                                                                      Photo by Francesco Preti

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

My best moment I have several but I’ll say this one stands out is when I opened the concert for B.B.King in Milan, Italy and my father getting to hear and see me on the same stage for the first time ever, because he plays for B.B.King. My worst moment was being called to the stage in a Blues Festival, and as I made my entrance with microphone in hand, turned around to start singing,and  I had no voice at all, I mean zero voice, how frightful!  


Are there any memories from Dee-Dee Bridgewater, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Scott Henderson, which you’d like to share with us?

Dee-Dee Bridgewater is a very nice person, I had the pleasure to meet her twice and the second time I remember her saying “I like your name Kay Foster Jackson it has a nice ring to it, keep on singing”

B.B. King is like a father to me, he has known me since I was a  little girl, and whenever I go to  his concert  he  always’ call s me up on stage and introduce me as Melvin’s daughter.

BoDiddley I remember him looking at me as he played his concert and it was one of my first big festivals that I played on, and he said “don’t worry girl just do your thing!!!!”

Scott Henderson, as being one of the headlines on the festival with Scott I remember him coming to me after my performance and saying “I’m in love with your voice, what a voice he said, what a voice, so rich”


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

I think the Blues will always be with us because that’s life in general, as the great song was written “Everyday I Have The Blues” we’ll always have some type of blues weather it’s having to get up in the morning going to a job we don’t like blues, or  the man I’ve been in love with so many years, now tells me he’s in love with someone else blues, or the lady he’s in love with is not all he thought she would be blues, or the money jar is empty blues you get the picture? My wish for the Blues is that we not let it die, its a part of our heritage and all youth today need to be introduced to a part of this music that has made history and changed lives and learn of what some of our struggles were.  (Photo by Francesco Preti)


What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

I would say, “If you really love what your doing, do it with your whole heart and soul, don’t look so hard at becoming famous, because your famous in the eyes of those who see you perform, just make sure that you’ve given your all in your craft and believe me it will show on that stage who you really are!!!!  It’s not always easy, but what is? We all have a gift, so use your gift to it’s fullest for the good, and you’ll never regret that you did.


From the musical point of view is there any difference and similarities between: bluesman & blueswoman?

I believe the difference between a bluesman & blueswoman is that the majority of men play an instrument wheather it be guitar or harmonica or banjo etc..., and a blueswoman well she just gets down right funky with it, and she’s more sensual.


How you would spend a day with Ella Fitzgerald? What would you like to ask Mahalia Jackson?

A day with Ella would be talking & laughing about how she started, her travels, and I would have to record at least one duet with the Queen. Mahalia what made your faith in God so strong?


What are the difference and similarities between Jazz and Blues?

Depending on what type of Jazz your speaking of such as beebop, swing, or fusion Jazz these are completely different, however you can slow down a jazz tune and turn it into a Blues song just like that! Good examples would be Fine and Mellow, sang as a Jazz classic, but I sing it as a standard and as a blues song.   (Photo by Francesco Preti)


Why are the Europeans so enamored with the Blues?

They feel the passion!


Why did you choose Italy and Europe, like Luther Allison, Louisiana Red, Champion Jack Dupree and many more?

Actually, while singing with The Burning Bush, I also played the role of seeking out venues in which to minister, and in doing so I sent out many demo packages and one of those packages landed in the hands of Sandra Hall (the Empress of the Blues) and she in turn sent it to her promoter, and the rest is as they say history.


From the musical point of view is there any difference between US Blues & European Blues?

The difference is, we have a fat sound!!!! And for some reason it’s hard for most Europeans’ to really get the hang of a real slow down home blues!!!


What is the difference between a musician living and working in the U.S. and one in Europe?

Well honestly I believe the biggest difference of course is there’s less competition being from the U.S. and being in Europe.


Habaka Kay Foster Jackson - Home


                                                                                     Photo by Francesco Preti





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